Pink and Puffy and Perfect Strawberry Chiffon Pie: Your Summertime Treat for Special Occasions

What do you think about when you hear “chiffon pie”?   I think of it as rather retro – a dessert not as popular as, say, in the 1950s.  However, my recent experience making one convinced me that there should be a chiffon revival (pie, not the fabric, though I guess they could go together…).

For Canada Day, I wanted to incorporate red and white as well as use the strawberries, which had just started to ripen locally (late after a rainy spring).  For reasons totally unrelated to these objectives, I was paging through intriguing cookbook, Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table.   In this fine transnational cookbook, I stumbled upon the subject of this post and decided I had to make it.

While I collect cookbooks from all over and featuring a wide variety of cuisines, I am particularly interested in the region spanning what in the US is called the “northwest” and in Canada, it is called “coastal BC” or the “wet coast” or the “left coast”, depending on the seriousness of the speaker.  (One time I actually had to explain to someone in the US why Canadians do not refer to Vancouver as being in the “northwest”; given that it is in the southwestern-most part of the country; the frame of reference simply does not work.  I did point out that we should call Metro Vancouver the “southwest” and that would just confuse everybody, making them think about Georgia O’Keefe and Fritos Pie, rather than Emily Carr and Japa Dog.)

About a decade ago or so, there was a movement of people across the border, in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and maybe Alaska  – although I do not believe that Sarah Palin was ever part of this effort – to create a region called “Cascadia” as a geo-eco-political realm.  Of course, there is no such Cascadian entity, but I can just imagine its Nu-agey anthem, with Enya chanting “Cascadia” repeatedly, in her wispy way, in a heavily acoustic hypnotizing song.

However, there is one cookbook which unites much of the territory of Cascadia.  Ms. Casey’s book features extraordinary photographs of the landscape as well as the dishes.  She really is big on the local-locavore-field-to-table-sustainable thing, which works well out here, with the abundance of seafood, berries, fine wines, green pastures, and lush fields, made possible by all the rain.

There was too much rain and cool weather in British Columbia this spring, so the strawberries ripened later than usual.  The strawberry season here is usually quite short, so I try to do something significant to mark the occasion of our smaller, more intense sweet berries – nowhere near the immense size of the California imports available year round (and generally with little flavour).

Folding strawberry mixture with cream, then with egg whites, can be time consuming.

My comments about this recipe – and the other chiffon pie I had made once (a blood orange one) is that they are a bit time-consuming, both in preparation and chilling.  Nonetheless, they are good for hot weather, as they have very minimal baking time just for a cookie crust, highlight seasonal fruit very well, and tend to be lighter than many cream pies (egg whites and gelatin help provide the body in the pie filling, in addition to a modest amount of whipped cream).

For a description of strawberry chiffon perfection – and the recipe…

Egg whites and sugar are stiff and shiny.

As for adaptations, I substituted a chocolate wafer cookie crust for the vanilla wafer cookie crust, both for taste and appearance.  The vanilla cookie counterpart would be tasty, too, but I prefer the rich chocolate cookie crunch as a counterpoint to the light, fluffy, and delicate strawberry interior – also black and pink were big together in the 1950s, so it is graphically appropriate, too, as a retro dessert.

Very 1950s in its pink and black glory

Otherwise, I added fresh mint and black pepper, sort of as an homage to Christine Ferber’s strawberry jam which incorporates these two unexpected ingredients into the most delectable preserves around.  The mint and pepper highlight the strawberries but do not stand out themselves – sort of like adding espresso powder in chocolate baked goods.

Ms. Casey calls it “pink and puffy”, but I think of it as “pink and puffy and perfect” strawberry chiffon pie.  I bet you will agree.

Pink and Puffy and Perfect Strawberry Chiffon Pie, adapted from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table

Serves 6

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 ½ cups very finely crushed chocolate  wafer cookies (use food processor or put in plastic bag and crush with rolling pin)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ¾ cup sugar

Filling

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • ½  cranberry or cranberry-raspberry
  • 1/2 cup cranberry or cranberry-raspberry juice cocktail (NB:  I used cranberry-pomegranate)
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 egg whites

Garnishes

  • Sweetened whipped cream (add one half-teaspoon of vanilla extract, if you like, to boost the flavour)
  • Fresh strawberries with stems, halved lengthwise

Directions

  1. To make the crust, preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Thoroughly mix the cookie crumbs, butter, and sugar in a medium bowl.
  3. Put the mixture in a 9-inch pie pan and press evenly into the pan bottom, then up the sides and out onto the rim.
  4. Bake for about 6 to 8 minutes, then let cool to room temperature.
  5. To make the filling, combine the berries and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a food processor and just lightly pulse a couple of times to break up the berries-do not puree or chop fine, and add the black pepper and mint. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a potato masher or clean hands to do this.)
  6. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes (no longer!) before continuing.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir the cranberry juice and gelatin together.
  8. Stir the mixture over low heat until the gelatin is just dissolved, then pour into a large bowl and set aside to let cool.
  9. Add the strawberry mixture to the cooled gelatin mixture.
  10. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is partially set-gloppy but not firm. (This takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your refrigerator.)
  11. When the mixture is partially set, quickly whip the cream in a mixer until quite stiff and then refrigerate the cream while you whip the egg whites.
  12. In a clean, grease-free mixer bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form.
  13. Then very, very slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  14. Gently fold the egg whites into the strawberry mixture, then gradually and very gently fold in the cream.
  15. Working quickly, mound the filling in the cooled pie shell.
  16. Refrigerate the pie until the filling is firm, at least 3 hours.
  17. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and halved strawberries.

Keep any leftover pie refrigerated for up to 2 days.

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21 responses to “Pink and Puffy and Perfect Strawberry Chiffon Pie: Your Summertime Treat for Special Occasions

  1. The chocolate crust is really smart. How can you go wrong with chocolate and strawberries?

  2. Chiffon cakes are all over Southeast Asia. It never disappeared. Think pandan chiffon cake in Malaysia and Singapore, purple yam cake (chiffon as base) over here. I suppose it’s quite appropriate for the hot and humid weather in this region since chiffon cakes are much lighter than other types of cakes.

    Looks appetizing. Too bad strawberry season has ended over here.

    I don’t know why, but whenever I hear Pacific Northwest or Alaskan cuisine, the words ‘salmon’ and ‘smoked salmon’ come to mind.

    • Thanks, KM. I remember those fluffy cakes with the fluorescent colours while traveling in Asia! (Right now, I am in Vancouver for the day – not at all far from a bakery called Goldilocks, which features traditional savoury and sweet items from the Philippines, with lots of those fluffy cakes – maybe I should just check to see if they have any anchovy-topped chocolate rice pudding…mmm.)

      Yes, salmon is a mainstay of our cuisine – smoked, cured, and prepared in every other way.

  3. Woaaaah, Dan! This is so retro awesome! I love it :D It’s so pink and fluffy… too cool. Perfect summer time dessert?

    Jax x

    • Thanks, Jax. This strawberry chiffon pie is almost as sweet as you are – for making such a laudatory remark!

      I think the pie would be perfect for celebrating (or for emotional-eating, to compensate for a less-than-desired outcome) during a picnic on Murray/Henman Hill next Wimbledon. You’d be unique at The Championships for your take on strawberries-n’-cream, no?

      Dan

  4. hi dear. first of all thanks so much for letting me know about the top 9. honestly you gave the good news. lovely. first time here. and should appreciate your photo skills and certainly i will be try this recipe as my strawberries in my garden are ripe now…

    • Thanks so much, Abraham. You are very kind to stop by and say such things!

      Do tell me how the pie turns out. I love to hear about the results.

      Yours,

      Dan

  5. I remember those chiffon pies from the 50′s to the 70′s…I loved them and actually they are still around, now only called something fancy like strawberry mousse tart or the likes. Yours remind me of those golden childhood days…lovely!
    A great post to read this is too!
    Ronelle

  6. Hi. My first time here as your blog was recommended by a good friend for a raspberry chiffon pie (been busy picking the last several mornings), so I’ll be making adjustments as I go along.

    However, do have a question. In the filling portion, you state 1/2 cranberry juice, but 1/2 of what? A cup, or a bottle? And if a bottle, what size?

    Also, in step 5, you state 112 of sugar. I figured out you meant 1/2 c sugar (since you go on to use 1/4 c later on) so you might want to correct that.

    Sorry, I’m a proofreader in my other life so I’m constantly seeing mistakes. I even proof menus when I go to restaurants.

    Thank you for what looks like a great recipe, and I will be back!

    • Hi, Sandi. Thank you thank you thank you for catching those errors! I hadn’t caught them, after having scanned the recipe, which I then adapted somewhat. I really appreciate your careful reading of the amounts and have now updated the recipe to read “1/2 cup of cranberry or cranberry-raspberry” (more my own mistake in rushing here) and “1/2 cup of sugar”.

      Please do let me know how it turns out for you. I will be grateful for any future errors you find, too!

      Yours,

      Dan

  7. I forgot this cake even existed! What a delightful reminder. I can’t wait to make it!

  8. I will absolutely make this over the weekend. The chocolate cookie crust and the pepper sound like excellent tweaks. It’s beautiful too so it would be great for company!

  9. Did you save a slice for me…? I’m a strawberry fiend, and the season was really short in D.C. this year! So jealous.

    I love your aside about Canada’s Southwest. I must admit, I’ve been dreaming about a trip to what I think of as the Pacific Northwest (including Vancouver), but now I’ll be sure to remember this distinction!

    • Maddie, our strawberries are just about gone (as was the pie in the 48 hour window it has).

      When you’re ready, I can give you advice for your trip to the Northwest, which should become the “Southwest” once you cross the 49th parallel…

      Thanks,

      Dan

  10. Ahh, Goldilocks. Before I came here I knew Goldilocks as a girl who had porridge, bed and chair issues until she found them all ‘just right.’ That’s all changed now! I now associate it with diabetes-inducing cakes and pastries with mile-high frostings. Needless to say, I don’t recommend it, save your time and money.

    • Hi, KM. I didn’t know Goldilocks was a chain! You’re right in how you described it. Now I know why I wasn’t crazy about their baked goods….Thanks for the information, Dan

  11. Pingback: Pie is the New Cupcake? | IslandEAT

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